Hurricanes begin eight-game homestand vs. Senators
RALEIGH, N.C. — There might not be a more valuable time for the Carolina Hurricanes when they return from the All-Star Game break.
The Hurricanes open an eight-game homestand Tuesday night at PNC Arena with the Ottawa Senators providing the first opposition.
“Teams are starting to play each other, we just have to focus on taking care of business on our end,” Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk said. “It’s a grind right there in the standings.”
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Ottawa needs to get moving as well, with the Senators carrying a five-game losing streak.
Both teams are below the playoff line, so there’s plenty of work to do in both cases.
For Carolina (22-19-8), it’s actually part of a stretch with 11 of 12 games at home running through most of February. Five of Ottawa’s next eight games are on the road.
Coach Guy Boucher said the Senators (15-23-9) have shown signs of snapping the slump.
“We want guys to compete and we want to see how far they can go,” Boucher said.
Part of the key to upgrading production for the Senators will be the status of right winger Mark Stone, who missed three games with a lower-body injury. He has 44 points in 44 games, so there’s a void when he’s not on the ice.
“Hopefully, he’s there when we come back,” Boucher said. “We’re prepared for anything right now. Whether they guys are there or not, we’ve got to push. … We’re going to play them the way that we need to and we’re going to expect them to be at their best regardless if they’re missing players or not.”
Ryan Dzingel has been a solid source of offense for the Senators, perhaps making up for Stone’s absence.
“There are bright spots and he’s one of them,” Boucher said.
Ottawa center Jean-Gabriel Pageau played in the final game before the break after a four-game absence with an upper-body injury.
Ottawa goalie Mike Congdon had a strong outing in the net in the loss to Boston last Thursday.
The Hurricanes had a rough stretch prior to the break before defeating Montreal in a wild matchup in their most-recent game.
The Hurricanes have been searching for a sustained spark.
“Someone has to step up and try to do something going, that can be offensively, defensively,” Faulk said. “Something to get the guys fired up a little bit.”
Carolina could have center Sebastian Aho back after he missed four games with a concussion and knee ailment, coach Bill Peters said Monday.
Both teams had a defenseman in the All-Star Game. Captain Erik Karlsson represented the Senators and Noah Hanifin represented the Hurricanes.
“To go out there and play with those guys in that game was a blast,” Hanifin said of his first all-star experience on the NHL level.
The Senators made moves Monday, calling up Chris DiDomenico, Colin White and Erik Burgdoerfer from Belleville of the American Hockey League.
The Hurricanes sent defenseman Haydn Fleury to Charlotte of the AHL so he could play a game during the all-star break. He has since returned to the Hurricanes. Fleury is fourth among NHL rookie defensemen this season with 55 blocked shots.